Citrix XenDesktop vs VMware View Part 2

The Battle Round 2

Protocol Smotocol Who Cares?

This one is probably the hugest public debate between VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop. Every version that comes out or every quarter some report comes out saying the other is better.

The Big Kid List: VMware View 4 PCoIP and RDP Citrix XenDesktop ICA(PortICA if you want to get nerdy)

So the basic debate is always on which of these uses the least amount of bandwidth and then the on the flipside which one has the best multimedia support. I think this protocol debate can be broken down into a couple more sub-categories. (No one talks about any of the last two categories in my short list when they talk about the protocol debate)

1. Bandwidth 2. Multimedia 3. Multimedia with Thin Clients 4. Device and OS Support


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Bandwidth is the biggest fighting point between the two for sure. Every week someone will release something (totally third party… right?) and say it 10 times better or 40 times better. From what I have read and researched there are more things talking about how much smaller ICA is over PCoIP and especially when compared to RDP.

With that being said you will see lots of things that will say the other is better, so who or what can you trust? (Trust the VDI Ninja!) I think this one you can call 1st place Citrix XenDesktop and a distant 2nd is VMware View with PCoIP (with RDP being a distant 277th place) when you compare ICA to PCoIP. In every test I have done internally and externally for clients ICA wins every time no matter how menial the task or how graphics intensive.

One thing that has made me uneasy with VMware View has to do with PCoIP and the agreement with Terradici. They don’t own the company (which I think is whack move for them, because it shows their priorities to server virtualization and not desktop virtulization) but they just have agreement that they will continue to work on it for them and OEM it in their View product line. Terradici was a hardware based ASIC chip (which is awesome!) and now it is software, which made some people uneasy (Including the VDI Ninja). With PCoIP making a huge difference for VMware and they are finally getting some traction on the product with that addition and it was a semi-good decision for them(They should have committed all the way!).

I just wonder what will happen as a whole to Terradici as a company since their hardware sales are down because of their new found focus on their software version for VMware. Can they survive as a company with these changes in their own internal culture of hardware-based acceleration to now software-based acceleration just for VMware View? (How much is VMware paying to make that kind of change to their business model?)

Citrix + 1 VMware + .50

Multimedia (All are not created equal)

This also comes back to Bandwidth because there are pros and cons to watching Avatar on a Virtual Desktop. In almost every test I have seen, when a test is doing flash or just watching a video VMware it always consumes more bandwidth, which is why still in most cases it is suited for a LAN deployment. Citrix has their new terms for ICA and it is called HDX and it actually works and isn’t just some sales mumbo jumbo(Citrix has the history with this protocol winning against everything in the past and it is going to take a lot of R&D to de-throne them). I have been at client’s messing with some of the HDX advanced settings and without any other third party add-ons (WYSE TCX aka Steroids for ICA and RDP) it sounds great and looks great.

I have been at a couple presentations ran by VMware sales guys for VMware View 4 and they will show some video but they don’t show sound, and if you ask them about that they will just slip past that and say it works we just didn’t turn it on(You may need the nunchucks to get the real answer). What they meant to say is the audio in most cases sucks and there isn’t a lot of tweaking that will help make it more better. I’m not going to watch Avatar with English subtitles (Screw That!)

As a whole package XenDestkop and Multimedia across the WAN and LAN is pretty much awesome for what it is. I have seen Bentley Micostation on XenDesktop render a building across 3G better than View on the LAN and to me that says it all. In environments where Multimedia is not a big deal on the LAN and especially the WAN then VMware View is fine in most cases as long as the other shortfalls are okay with you. With Virtual Desktop replacing in most cases you are replacing a computer that could play Avatar without any hiccups so you have to make sure this requirement is met.

Citrix + 1 VMware + 0

Multimedia with Thin Clients

When it comes to Multimedia teaming up with Thin Clients the obvious leader has to be WYSE. They have developed steroids for ICA\HDX (Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp) and RDP (VMware View, (No PCoIP for you!!!(Yet…)). With this add-on technology you can do some amazing things with Flash Re-Direction, Video Acceleration, Multi Monitor Support and USB Support. With this a VMware View and a Citrix XenDesktop environment can operate even better in those caveats that TCX juices up.

I worked with a client that was doing English as a second language class where it was web driven with flash and on top of that the student would have to speak into an old analog headset and record their selves reading phrases for the teacher to listen to. In this scenario VMware View and Citrix XenDestkop on the LAN performed well with a little crack and pop on the audio(more on VMware on the pauses within the recording), and a little flash stiffness (about the same for both).

Then we turned on TCX in both desktops and the differences were amazing, the audio was great and flash of the website showing the lesson had no stiffness to it. Then we stepped up the ante and took this to a T1 with about 100ms latency to the datacenter and then XenDesktop shined through big time it was still just as good on the LAN but VMware had degraded to a unworkable state just within the desktop. We turned on PCoIP on and then turned off TCX and the desktop experience was okay but the audio and flash video experience was horrible.

This real world scenario and others like it I have done have proved it for me. Try it yourself and see.

Citrix + 1 VMware + .25

Device and OS Support

This to most doesn’t seem like a protocol thing but I think it should be in this category, because this is why we want our users to go to a flexible virtual desktop and it would be nice if they could get it from anywhere and from any device.

With my first Citrix XenDesktop Demo over two years ago when it came out I was able to show it from XP, Vista, 7 RC Candidate, Mac, Server 2003, Server 2008. Then a while later the Citrix Receiver came out and I could show it on IPhone and then Steve Jobs keeps making new toys and now I can show it on a IPad. Being able to show that flexibility of XenDesktop and or XenApp spiked lots of client’s interest to the almost endless possibilities of access.

With my first VMware View demo (aka VDM at that time) around the same time frame I was able to get it up and going real fast but I could only show it from a XP Thin client and XP OS and that was it. No Vista, 7 RC Candidate, Mac, Server 2003, Server 2008. This caused a bunch of problems for the clients I talked to at that time and they were asking me why it was like that and I had to say “I don’t know.” Over the past two years they have added OS’s to their list but still lacking seriously on mobile devices. They are using WYSE to help them get to mobile devices (WYSE Extender). But that to me doesn’t show that they are trying to go any device and anywhere like Citrix.

The flexibility of these solutions is very important in most clients eyes and from these first demos to even today Citrix XenDesktop wins hands down and it is no contest when compared to VMware View

Citrix + 1 VMware + 0

Total after Round 2

Citrix 5 VMware .75

Citrix XenDesktop vs VMware View Part 1

VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop have been battling since their inception. I have seen their flaws and strengths in hundreds of environments. I can hopefully let my opinion be known so you can make a good decision.

Dynamic Access Based Policies (easiest way to explain to anyone that doesn’t know all the Citrix sales mumbo jumbo)

I think is one of the biggest reasons why it wins in most environments is because of its Dynamic Access Base Policies (aka Citrix Policies, Advanced Access Control, Smart Access)

In summary this is what I mean about Dynamic Access Base Policies:

User Logs into their virtual desktop at work and they have a company registry watermark and or they are just within a certain internal VLAN. When the user logs in from this location they can copy and paste and print\scan and has access to their local computer’s hard drive to copy something from the virtual desktop to their computer (Danger Will Robinson in most cases)

Ring, Ring, “Come and get your kids they are yacking everywhere” (User walks away from their desktop by either locking their screen or just letting their screensaver kick in, they are still sitting at their word document that Lumberg wants tomorrow)

Pick the kids up and take them grandma’s house and hop on the internet on her clunker of a computer and install the Citrix client and login to your virtual desktop then pick up where you left off in the word document but now you cannot copy and paste, you cannot print\scan and you cannot get it to your local home computer and this is because of this Dynamic Access Base Policies. User then saves their work on their home drive or shared drive and then heads back to work and then he can print it out and make sure he puts a cover report on his TPCS report (So he doesn’t get Lumberg’ed)

This to me is huge! I cannot see how VMware View can stand up to something like this. This is the one of the reasons they fail competitively that I have seen. If I’m a company and have to deal with any compliancy policies like HIPAA, SOX, PCI, COBIT and 5 million others that are out there you have to have things like this (It is not just a want!). If you want to make your desktop environment flexible, consistent and secure you have to know that when someone goes home they are not syphoning off data and causing problems for you and ultimately the whole company.

To accomplish the same thing in VMware view you would have to create two desktop groups one that has client access on and one with it off. The user would have to log into whichever based on where it is VMware is going to pick it for them. On top of this basically trust system where you have to decide who gets it both ways or just making everyone have it or don’t have it , you have just doubled your administration. How did I just double my administration you might ask? With two desktop groups you will have to maintain the images for both the restricted access and the Free Willy access which means when it is time to make the plunge from Office 2007 to Office 2010 you will have to do the provisioning process twice which depending on how many desktops that can get very painful and take the rest of your day.

Round 1 Total Citrix XenDesktop +1 VMWare View +0

About the Ninja

First off welcome to the Virtual Desktop Ninja Blog.  On hear I will be talking about things that I have seen in Virtual Desktop deployments using the two big boys Citrix XenDesktop and VMware View.  I have been in nerding it up since the late 80’s.  My main focus over that past 3 years have been virtual desktops and implementing in large scale and very small scale for clients.  I don’t really have any huge bias to either option I think there are some instances where each excel in their respective areas.  I have seen both have problems and both run like greased lighting.  I will explain the pros and cons of both solutions so you can make the best decision for your environment and I will link and show anything that I think will help someone make a decision.

Thanks and Bow to your Sensei,

Virtual Desktop Ninja aka VDI Ninja